The old “here we go again” mentality would kick in, largely because a two-goal hole looked like a canyon, the only trail through it a steep one, and the Jets riding a wonky donkey with four left feet.
Somewhere along the way, this team has discovered a scoring touch — a whopping 28 goals in their last eight games — and suddenly giving up the first one, maybe even two, isn’t all doom and gloom.
“Two weeks ago we would have got demoralized really poorly,” head coach Claude Noel acknowledged.
“And we didn’t. We regrouped, stuck with it, we got rewarded.”
And the difference?
A simple, yet hard-to-put-a-finger-on thing called confidence.
“It’s just the belief system,” Noel said. “And that’s attached to confidence. We’re a confident group, now. We think we can score.”
Sure enough, the Jets tied it up on two Blake Wheeler goals in the second period.
And they did it without reverting to the firewagon hockey they played against the Flyers.
That middle frame — the Jets gave up just four shots, while pounding 18 on the Blues net — must have been sweet music to the ears of Noel, a coach who’ll take a defence-first approach, any day, especially with this roster.
Actually, Noel was ready to take the entire game and stack it up against any his team has played.
“It tells us what we can be, when we all play well,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s an identifying moment, but ... that’s one of the better games I’ve seen us play. That’s our A-game. Now we know where the bar is.”
After some efforts, Noel looks like he’s headed straight for the bar.
This wasn’t one of them.
“Sometimes you wait a long time to see that game. Sometimes you see it after 20, 25 games. Sometimes you wait until now. I’m happy we got a game like this.”
It wasn’t flashy, end-to-end stuff.
But against the smothering style employed by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock — St. Louis is the NHL’s stingiest team, after all — coming back from a two-goal deficit is like trying to sprint through knee-deep snow.
The point the Jets salvaged is going to come in awfully handy in the snail’s race that is the Southeast Division playoff chase even though the Florida Panthers retook the division lead, and third spot in the conference, with a 3-2 shootout win over Carolina.
Just as important, it reinforced this new notion that even against one of the league’s solid, tight-checking teams, the Jets can be right there, at least, at home.
“We made two mistakes in the first and they capitalized on them,” defenceman Mark Stuart said. “We didn’t give them much, other than that. We’re happy with the way we played.”
Not just Saturday, either.
The Jets have won four of their last six, and picked up a point in the other two.
“You can sense the confidence around the room,” Andrew Ladd said. “It’s evolving into what we want to be, here.”
What they want to be, short-term, is one of the 16 horses in the Stanley Cup chase.
For now, they’ve ditched the donkey.
And that’s a step in the right direction.